Thursday, 23 June 2016

What Does it Take to be a Gamer?

Edmonton Game Discovery Exhibition
Attendees at GDX try out games that were developed locally. Photo used with permission from GDX and credited to Leanne Klimek.
I’ve attended comic book conventions and entertainment expos – overall, I consider myself a nerdy person. However, if I called myself a gamer, I’d be a disgrace to the entire gaming community and frankly, humanity. In fact, the extent of my gaming experience is limited to Candy Crush, if that even counts.
But do you know who is a gamer? Deanna Dombroski, a petite girl with short dark hair and a lot of quirkiness. Deanna is a fellow U of A student and she fits the definition of what I would expect a gamer to be – BUT, she’s also managed to expand my definition of what it means to be a gamer – and a game developer. It turns out that anyone can be a gamer – but it takes a special quality to be a game developer.

Working with her colleague Derek Kwan (a U of A alumni who possesses what I can only describe as the purest form of enthusiasm for games that I’ve encountered), the pair, along with other members of the U of A’s Video Game Art and Design Club, came together earlier this summer to produce the Edmonton Game Discovery Exhibition (GDX). Lucky for me, one of my friend’s convinced me (with very little effort on his part) that I should go. So I did.

While attending the event, I got to try out indie games that were locally made, learned that approx. 54% of Canadian’s are gamers, and met students and new grads, like Deanna and Derek, who showed a lot of passion for their work.

Yes, I was astonished when I first heard the 54% stat, but in hindsight, it’s no surprise, I am now more aware of why over half of Canadians are playing games. Games are fun, interactive, provide hours of entertainment and can be played with many people – but what’s the fuss?

As Deanna was quick to point out to me, game development is not something that everyone has the talent or determination to pursue. “People sometimes assume that games are only made by programmers. Games need artists, writers, musicians, actors, directors, managers, producers and developers. A lot more goes into games than people think.”

And she’s right. In fact, as Derek explained, GDX was started because games need to pull together a large number of different talents, skills, and interests.

The GDX Planners
A group of GDX volunteers. Photo used with permission from GDX and credited to Leanne Klimek. 
As I learned from many of the students I talked to, GDX allows artists and developers to connect and network in an environment that facilitates learning and discovery. By creating these relationships, GDX helps to create a better game industry in Alberta, which in turn allows local developers and artists to build better games.

And really, isn’t that what we all want? Better games? Better experiences? Better ways to spend our time than just playing Candy Crush? And shouldn’t we, as we play those games, maybe take a few extra moments to think “hey, somebody made this” – scratch that, we should be thinking “hey, think of ALL the people who came together to make this!” That’s what I’ll be thinking from now on, when I do my effort to bump that 54% up to 55% (or more likely 54.0000001%).

Attending GDX allowed me to understand that games are indeed, art. Just like learning to play a new instrument or practising ballet – games take time, and a lot of patience.

Games transport players to different worlds and new realms that we can only imagine. Games sometimes tell us stories with depth and meaning – and other times they just tell us to shoot the bad guys.

After attending GDX and learning more about the game industry, it has come to my attention that the work of my fellow U of A students is highly important for this growing industry and contributes to a unique and growing community in Alberta.

And now I’m pretty sure I want to be a gamer (but not a developer – that’s way too complicated).

Melissa - YouAlberta Contributor

Melissa is a second year BA student in Global and Development Studies at Augustana. Her favourite pastimes are drinking tea, eating chicken wings, rock climbing and playing her ukulele. Melissa loves wearing bright red lipstick to match her hair and her sarcastic personality!

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